Mistissini’s new Miyupimaatisiiun Centre is open for business



Crees take pride in seeing their communities grow and Mistissini is no exception. Seeing a needed addition to your community is a pleasure when it fulfils a basic necessity like health care.

The local clinic had become too small to handle Mistissini’s population growth and the community’s health needs. The Miyupimaatisiiun Centre is a new mini-hospital that will help correct this situation. For example, many Cree remember the walk to fight for local dialysis treatment of Cree diabetics. Patients would have to go to Val-d’Or or Montreal for treatments and the high costs were a financial burden on many families. The walkers raised enough money to buy two dialysis machines, which went to the Chibougamau hospital.

Lately though, Crees were having a hard time obtaining treatment in Chibougamau. A hemodialysis unit that is part of the new centre will help alleviate this problem. Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come said it was important to bring Crees home. Given that almost one in four Crees are diabetic or have symptoms there is a need for this service.

There will also be a fully equipped laboratory, radiology facility and a pharmacy. It’s a far cry from the haphazard health care Crees received in the past.

Bella Petawabano, chair of the Cree Board of Health and Social Services (CHB), looked back to the 1920s, when a doctor would travel to the community by canoe in the summer to conduct annual check-ups.

“In 1942 a log clinic was built, and one or two nurses came each summer while the people were in residence,” Petawabano added. Later, a second clinic was built that provided health services five days a week. But, “if there were emergencies, people were flown out to Roberval, or later to the new Chibougamau hospital.” In the 1980s, another clinic was built to provide expanded services and an ambulance service.

“This centre brings our community healthcare facilities closer to those enjoyed by people in the rest of Quebec,” Petawabano stated with pride.

She also pointed out that, in addition to modern services, the centre respects traditional Cree healthcare. One aspect of that is the cedar house that “will provide a space for reflection, consultation with Elders, and traditional Cree healing, and it reflects our determination to draw on the strengths of our Cree heritage in forging a healthy future, one where we all experience and share in miyupimaatisiiun.”

On hand for the opening were Quebec’s Health and Social Services Minister Réjean Hébert, Social Services and Youth Protection Minister Véronique Hivon, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Élizabeth Larouche and Ungava MNA Luc Ferland.

“Since 1975, under the agreements between our government and the Crees, Quebec has offered many opportunities for collaboration,” Larouche said. “Mistissini Community Centre is a concrete example. It reflects, once again, the government’s willingness to consider the features associated with the culture and lifestyle of the Cree.”

Cree participation in the administration of health and social services “is a good illustration of our nation-to-nation relationship,” she added.

Hébert pointed out this visit was his first time in Mistissini and said he was impressed by the respect Cree had for the Elders and their wisdom. “This is a model for people everywhere,” he said.

The minister said they were trying to establish a council of Elders in other communities in Quebec and this is a way that Crees are having an influence in the rest of Quebec. Hébert was also aware of the problems with diabetes and felt the new centre would be beneficial for Mistissini.

A video featuring Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come’s full speech at the opening ceremonies is available on the Nation website: nationnews.ca